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How to make hybrid working ‘work’

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Like a flick of a light switch the world of work forever changed last year when employees were uprooted from their offices to remote working environments.

While many rejoiced as commute times were eliminated and workplace flexibility reached new highs, others mourned the loss of easy collaboration, organic hallway conversations, and a defined separation of work and home. These two extremes are softening as the vaccine rollout continues into a new state – the hybrid workplace.

As can be expected there are benefits and disadvantages that need to be considered and accommodated as organisations develop their workplace policies. It’s a complex dance, yet when done well, it has the potential for creating an environment that successfully attracts and retains a diverse range of top talent.

To keep employees motivated and engaged through the transition to a hybrid workforce, organisations should consider the following tips:

Start slow

While the move to remote work was sudden, the return to an office or hybrid environment should be methodical, well communicated in advance and address long-term plans.

Take the time to survey employees and understand their perspectives and address them. Ensure all lines of business are represented and consider multiple scenarios during the planning process.

Nurture leadership skills

Leaders will need to adjust their style and place a renewed focus on inclusivity to avoid a workforce of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. This gap within the ranks of the workforce can damage morale, engagement and performance. Leaders will need to put an emphasis on keeping remote employees – who are not engaging at the office day to day – informed and included.

Continue to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion

As the workforce continues to be more dispersed than ever before, employers must facilitate an inclusive work culture, including addressing unconscious bias and accelerating diversity practices. Strategies that will produce real, lasting change will encourage employees to show up to work every day – whether in person or online – feeling safe, connected and heard.

There’s no such thing as perfect

There has been a lot of research conducted about employee workplace preferences. There is also a breadth of information outlining the business case for closing office spaces to reduce costs. At the end of the day, while there will never be an approach that works optimally for all involved, if you listen to your employees, set priorities and communicate clearly, your rationale will be understood.

Leverage technology, data and analytics to drive decisions

The pace of change over the past year has meant companies are looking to hire, develop leaders, reduce turnover and increase engagement at a speed no one predicted. Organisations must build agility into their processes and leverage data to drive the immediate and predictable results they are looking to achieve.

In a highly uncertain, fast-changing business context like we’re facing today, you need to have access to real-time workforce data to make informed decisions regarding labour planning, workforce management, and pay. What makes this possible is having a single source of employee data that’s accessible across the organisation, right when you need it.

The future of hybrid working is uncertain yet full of possibility. Leaders who embrace communication, apply data to drive insights, and prioritise an inclusive work environment will have a distinct advantage as they build their workforce of the future. This is a tremendous opportunity to evolve, and if done right, will open the floodgates to a brave new world of work.

 

Wendy Muirhead is vice president of Ceridian Europe.